Judge won’t toss lawsuit over vote-by-mail in San Juan County

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has issued a split ruling in a lawsuit filed over vote-by-mail in Utah’s largest county.

The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, backed by the ACLU of Utah, sued San Juan County over its decision to switch to vote-by-mail. They argue a reduced number of polling places burdens Navajo voters, who have to drive hours to vote. Navajo is also an unwritten language making vote-by-mail more difficult.

San Juan County leaders have maintained they have made more efforts to accommodate Navajo voters, including providing language assistance and opening more polling places.

In a ruling Thursday night, U.S. District Court Judge Jill Parrish rejected a request by the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission to rule in their favor. However, the judge also rejected a request by San Juan County to dismiss the lawsuit outright.

The judge also blocked the commission’s efforts to add new claims over voting. But in a separate ruling, Judge Parrish granted the commission’s request dismiss some of San Juan County’s counter-claims in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit will continue. The ACLU and San Juan County have disclosed in court filings they had previously entered into settlement negotiations, but those apparently have not been fruitful.

Read the judge’s ruling here: